The Poetry of Murray O’Donnell

poetry, Poetry, Song & Literature

Murray O’Donnell was the embodiment of a “man o’pairts”. Panto dame, dramatist, local historian, bowler, mason, mechanic, family man and friend to those in need. The list could go on much further.

He was born in Ballewan Crescent, Blanefield in 1943 to Winifred and Charles O’Donnell, whose Irish grandfather had moved to the area in the 1860s. He was educated at the local primary school and Balfron High School and spent the bulk of his working life at Alexanders Bus Garage at Burnbrae, Milngavie.

 In 1993 he was at the centre of the small group who founded Strathblane Heritage Society and he remained its guiding light for more than 25 years. But he was also a gifted poet with a passion for Old Scots. At many Burns suppers and other local events Murray would bring the house down with one of his latest humorous verses. Dae Ye Mynd Langsyne was written in 1994 and is packed with unalloyed nostalgia for the Blanefield of his youth.

Looking down on the Blane Valley from the Gowk Stane path, he recalls childhood games, like “Chap Door Run” and teasing lassies with frogs and worms, as well as missing school to harvest potatoes and bringing in the cows at Findlay’s dairy. He remembers standing at the level crossing on Station Road to watch trains and buying sweets at the Telfers’ shop further up the same road. He also delivered telegrams for Blanefield postmistress, Lena Gove.

The “filters” where kids made dens were the filter beds created in the late 19th century to limit pollution from the printworks entering the Blane Water. A special treat was a trip to the cinema in Milngavie.

Murray passed away in 2021, aged 77. Hard act to follow!


A look doun frae the Gowk Stane
tae the valley o the Blane
an A think of aw the things the war 
when A wes juist a wean.
A see the bairns playin
an wunner if they ken,
o onie o the games we played 
an aye say cock or hen.
The war ‘kick the can' an 'hunchie'
an 'chap door rin',
an if they nearly gruppit ye 
t wes pairt o aw the fun. 
Wi a puddock in a poutch 
an wurms in a tin,
(we showed thaim tae the lassies 
tae gar thaim skirl an rin)
we plunked the skuil tae hawk the spuds 
an help tae stouk the corn.

A look doun frae the Gowk Stane 
tae the place whaur A wes born.
At Finlay's o the Cuit we gethert in the kye, 
an stuid afore the crossing gate
tae watch the train gae by,
then Telfor's shop for sweeties
an aw the things we'd like
an tak a rin tae Stra'blane
wi twa up on a bike,
an Lena wi a telegram
wad send ye on a trip
an hope the news wes no that bad 
as ye waited on the tip.
The war sum that duin the milk 
whyles ithers duin the papers
an sum that duin no much at aw, 
their life wes fou o capers
wi gang huts doun the filters
an picters at Milngavie
an sum duin gey awfie things 
that garred their mithers cry.

A look doun frae the Gowk Stane 
tae the valley o the Blane
an A think o aw the things the war 
when A wes juist a wean,
sae play awa wee bairnies
frae Blanefield an Stra'blane,
for the day wul cum when you wul wush 
that you war juist a wean !


The Braes of Strathblane (Anon)

This is a typical “Broadside Ballad”, printed on a single sheet of cheap paper, often with a woodcut illustration, as here. They were a common form of printed material in the 19th century. This one was published by James Lindsay between 1860 and 1880. Firmly based in...

Revisiting Strathblane (1881) by William T McAuslane

This poem was first printed in the Lennox Herald on 10 September 1881 and was “inscribed to AP Coubrough Esq, Blanefield Printworks”. McAuslane was clearly a friend of the Coubroughs, who owned the Printworks. It may be intended to voice the thoughts of Anthony Park...

The Poems of Thomas Thorpe

The poet Thomas Thorpe was born on 9 March, 1829 in Milton, Dunbartonshire, son of a block printer at the local works. When he was five, he moved with his family to Strathblane. One of his earliest childhood memories was being with his sisters in a wood where wild...